Problem essay

Jackson Cabot

Word Count: 902

UC Davis has one of the biggest student enrollment of all the UC System, with more than 25,000 undergraduates.  With so many students, it can be difficult to fairly and efficiently manage registration for classes.  Many introductory classes have many students, some more than 500 in a single lecture, and but even these classes can become severely impacted when they are not managed properly.  Unfortunately, the current system of registration for classes has several key flaws, and it is often unfair for students, especially underclassmen.  The university registrar needs to improve the way it handles registration in classes.

The first main flaw is the way pass times are handled.  In the current system, students are assigned a pass time based on how many credits they have accumulated.  Students with more credits get earlier pass times, so they register for classes earlier.  This makes sense, since in general, upperclassmen who need classes in order to graduate on time have more credits than underclassmen, they will get priority, ensuring that they get seats in the classes that they need.  Underclassmen, of course are more flexible, and could take the classes at later time.  The problem with the pass times though, is that they only last four hours.  If my pass time is at 6:00AM, then I have until 10:00AM to register for my classes.  If I make a mistake or change my mind, no matter how many credits I have to my name, I cannot register for a class after 10:00AM.  This is completely ridiculous.  There is no reason that I should not be able to change my classes at any time after my given pass time.  Those students with later pass times are still at a disadvantage because I get to pick first.  The only possible reason I could think of for this is if the server that handles registration could not accommodate all students at the university making schedule changes.  If this is the case, then the administration must invest in a better server.  The consequence of this problem is that if you want to register or drop a class after your pass time is over, then you must wait until pass two or until open registration after everyone has chosen their schedules.  By this time, many classes would have been filled even though I should get priority.

If you unfortunate enough to have a late pass time for lack of credits, then you might have to register on a waitlist for an impacted class.  The university has limited space, funding (that they put into academics) and faculty, so sometimes classes with high demand will get full.  When you sign up for a waitlist, you have to do it by section.  Many science classes have lecture classes with hundreds of students, which are divided into smaller lab sections of about 20 students or so.  The labs are held at various times, so some lab sections are compatible with students’ schedules, others are not.  The problem with waitlisting at UC Davis is that every lab section, no matter the time has its own waitlist.  Even labs that take place at the exact same time have different waitlists.  In addition, you can only waitlist one section.  Naturally students will pick a section that suits their schedule, but often many lab sections are compatible.

Consider a situation where there are two lab sections for a single impacted class.  One is 2 PM, the other at 5 PM.  Two students, one sophomore and one freshman, whose schedules allow them to take either section, need take the class for their majors.  Both lab sections fill up before either of them can register.  The sophomore arbitrarily signs up for the 2 PM lab and the freshman, thinking he would have a better chance, signs up for the 5 PM lab.  Who gets in? Fortunately for the freshman, a spot opened up in the 5 PM lab and not the 2PM lab, and he got the seat, even though the sophomore could have taken the class.  Since the sophomore was on a different waitlist, he didn’t get in, and it didn’t matter how many credits he had.  The freshman just chose the right lab to register for.  In short, it came down to luck.

Registering for classes should depend on luck.  With so many students at the university, it is very difficult to eliminate luck from the equation, but the registrar should do everything it can to minimize the luck factor for the sake of the students.  The best way to solve this problem is to make all sections of a course use a single waitlist.  Students would waitlist by course, not by section, but they would indicate which sections their schedules allow them to take.  When a spot opens up in any section, a program would go down the list and find the first person that can take that section, and then offer the student that seat.  This would make the process less stressful, more reliable, and much fairer, especially for upperclassmen, but it would benefit underclassmen as well.

A university is a place for education, and it should do everything it can to offer that education to its students fairly.  With then current system, UC Davis is not doing what is best for its students.  Students need to pressure the registrar to enact these changes for the betterment of their educational experience by ensuring the process is as fair as possible.

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